Sunday, November 29, 2020

Stop means stop


     What is more standard than a street sign? Designed to convey a single simple message to drivers zipping past, they are one form that isn't played with. Stop signs are always a red octagon. They're never blue. They're never square.
     So driving down a street in Norridge Saturday I was instantly intrigued with this stop sign addition, a little mini-me sign, adding an exclamation mark to the standard stop sign. As if the town were saying, "No kidding, we mean it." I'd never seen one before.
     Could it be official? Or some desperate measure from a local resident? It looked too well-wrought for that. They got the font right, and that is usually a giveaway.
     At home I jumped online, and found the signs as early as 2008 in Hinsdale, and references to a "Stop Means Stop Program." But I couldn't find an original source—not the program itself., obviously a play off "No means no." Kinda risqu
é for a street sign. Then there is a tradition of newer signs having a little edge, trying to cut through the clutter and stand out from the overfamiliarity of the usual. New York's classic, "Don't even THINK of parking here" comes to mind. 
     I found them in Georgia, but most seem a suburban Chicago thing. Forest Park tried them. Park Ridge too, which inspired Lincolnwood to consider doing so as well. 
In 2018, the Lincolnwood Traffic Commission didn't think much of the "Stop Means Stop Program."
     "The Commission discussed the facts that the program is discouraged by the Illinois Department of Transportation, it contributes to sign clutter, there are no warrants or standards and there is no available evidence to suggest it improves safety or compliance."
     Ouch. In its defense, the sign made me stop completely, but then I wanted to take a photo.  Street sign clutter seems a real concern, to some people, but to me that's one of those criticisms that says more about the observer than the the thing being criticized. "There are too many street signs." That's like complaining there are too many molecules flitting through the air. Or am I making the mistake of treating a genuine concern lightly just because I don't happen to share it? I thought the thing was cute. Then again, I've seen it once. 


  1. Obviously, the meaning is to end what are commonly known as "California Stops", where the driver just slows down & rolls through at a low speed.
    I see more & more of them around Chicago, with Oak Park possibly being the worst, as almost no one driving on a side street in Oak Park, bothers to stop at the stop sign when they come to a main street.

  2. I like the novelty of the sign. It would be fun to see one- shakes up the normal routine, which is good. So many of us can get into autopilot when driving rather than giving operating a several 1 or 2 ton object the focus it deserves.

    On my folks' Chicago corner one neighbor makes a sport of counting the few who honor the stop sign at all.

  3. As a former National Safety Council employee, I support the concept entirely. Any tactic to help dissuade those of us who are in a hurry to go nowhere is a good thing. Regarding the street sign clutter issue, I would suggest the advertising signage clutter issue is the first priority by far.

  4. Comparable to the well known belief of Manhattan pedestrians that a stop sign is only a suggestion.


  5. Oak Lawn has had a lot of "clever" stop signs for years. They're mini-signs, just like the ones in Norridge. My favorite is "Right there, pilgrim"...which, when added to "Stop", completes a line of dialogue from a John Wayne western. Apparently, he said it in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" in 1962.

    1. The one that caught my attention was, “STOP in the name of love.”

  6. Beautiful. I live far North side of Chicago, half block from Lincolnwood. I ride my bike through both neighborhoods. Chicago has four-way stop signs on almost every backstreet corner, nobody ever pays attention and rarely does anyone stop. Lincolnwood, no stop signs for the backstreets so you must yield, and I think most people do. My point, just can the stop signs. Obviously nobody's paying attention. And we always refer to slowly going through the stop sign as a "Rolling Stop", that's what I heard it called. And when life is good and nothing to whine about, we always have the four-way stop signs on the backstreets as a go to.

    1. The Far North Side is infested with tons of unnecessary stop signs to the late & definitely unlamented 50th Ward alderman Berny Stone.
      Apparently he had a child killed by a car 50-60 years ago & that drove him over the edge. He put stop signs all over West Rogers Park & some had to be removed because the signs caused multi-block backups, such as one on EB Touhy at Albany, that caused a huge backup in Lincolnwood at Touhy/McCormick.
      Stone also was responsible for that illegal fence down the middle of Howard St. & he also made several streets one way, which also caused traffic messes.

  7. Guessing that you don't have a whole lot of superfluous street signs on your charming lane in the leafy suburban paradise, Neil. In the city, there are a *lot* of signs. I imagine that most of them are necessary, but would it make for a more attractive, less cluttered streetscape if there were fewer? IMHO, yes, though it's not something that keeps me up at night.

    As for the sign in question, I think it's kind of cute. I see little possibility of it being effective, however. Folks know what "stop" means. Those that habitually roll through stop signs are unlikely to be shamed into good behavior via being chided by that cute reminder. Seems to me that the fear of getting a ticket is the only avenue through which scofflaws are convinced to scoff less.

  8. What Clark St. says about law-abiding liberal Oak Park is true. I swear I met people who there who really thought that a "rolling stop" counted as a stop.


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